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Column: If you plan on getting a passport, read this

An opinion piece on a recent experience with applying for a Canadian passport.

UPDATE: The passport was delivered in one week. 


Life has been playing funny tricks on me lately, proving over and over again that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

For about a month now, most of my plans have been finding their way to get me out of my comfort zone and shake things up a bit. The latest surprise came last week.

Now that the travel restrictions are in the past, yet COVID's effects on all kinds of systems are still a thing of the present, most of you probably have heard about the difficulties associated with acquiring a Canadian passport. I definitely had. And as my Canadian citizenship certificate was on the way, I researched the situation and came up with a personal plan.

The options citizens have today are defined by their travel needs. If you don't plan on going anywhere any time soon, you can just follow the traditional route – apply for a passport at any Service Canada branch and receive it by mail. The official processing time is at least 20 business days plus the mailing time.

I've monitored the discussions about passport processing times for a while, and it seemed that even though it's getting better, it still may take longer than a month to get your passport this way, which wouldn’t work with my travel plans.

The next option is to apply for a 10-day passport processing. You don't need proof of travel, but you would need to mention a near, anticipated travel date in your application form. You also would need to either go to a passport office or find a Service Canada Centre that offers 10-day processing. In our case, the closest one is in Regina.

There are also options for an urgent pick-up (by end of next business day, done in a passport office with urgent pick-up service, walk-in only) and express pick-up (in two to nine business days, done in a passport office with urgent pick-up service, walk-in or by appointments). In these cases, you will need proof of travel and will pay extra fees. 

With travel plans in mind, but nothing solidified yet, I chose the 10-day processing route. The soonest appointment available was in mid-January. So I headed to Regina last Wednesday to try my luck as a walk-in.

The centre opens at 8:30 a.m., so I thought if I arrive by noon, I'd have enough time to get everything done, as the application process is supposed to take about 15 minutes, or so I read. Well, my assumptions were wrong. The employee greeted me at the doors and said the line was already too long, so they weren't accepting any more applicants for that day.

While the centre opens at 8:30 a.m., the building doors open at 7:30 a.m., one of the staff said, and took a pause. So, I built my new plan accordingly – be there at 7:30, waste that one hour waiting, but hopefully save myself some time in line and get it done by 9:30 a.m. at the latest.

Thanks to my schedule, I was actually on my days off, so I didn't need to worry about work. Thanks to the Value Village close by, I spent several wonderful hours enjoying treasure hunting. And thanks to relatives and friends, finding a place to stay overnight in Regina was easy and indeed pleasant.

The next morning, I was at the doors at 7:33 a.m. (My bad, I didn't put time for parking into my equation.) And guess what? I was 13th in line.

The line for the day was formed by 10 a.m., if not earlier. The centre was understaffed due to several reasons, and while everything was indeed nice and very polite, as I was observing the situation, my brain kept suggesting pictures from a Zootopia cartoon – the episode at the DMV, remember?

Once I made it to the application processing booth, it indeed took 15 minutes to get done. But it took me until almost noon to get there. And since I was "planning" to be done before 9:30, by the time I made it to the final point, my brain was collapsing from lack of caffeine and my stomach was singing serenades from lack of nutrients. (So, we ended up having a good laugh when the employee was helping me with the application, as my stomach tried answering his questions before I had a chance to open my mouth.)

After all, I got it all done and will be receiving my passport in the mail in a few days. Hurray!

Conclusions: if you are planning on applying for a passport any time soon, don't make my mistakes. Find your best option, come early, eat before you come and/or take some food and coffee with you (they did have a water fountain there), and even though the waiting might be annoying, try to have fun with it. The fact that the system is not working to its best, to say the least, doesn't mean that employees are not doing their best or that you shouldn't have a good time despite all the challenges.

Over this past month, the main thing I learned is when my original plans collapse, other doors open, and all I can do is enjoy the new scenarios.

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